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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E114. Stick to Your Story and Nail Your Investor Pitch with Donna Griffit



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz  0:00

Welcome to The Storypowers Podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I’m your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach, Francisco Mahfuz.


My guest today is Donna Griffit.


Donna is a world-renowned Corporate Storyteller and Pitch Alchemist. She’s helped over 1,500 clients to raise 1.5 BILLION dollars in funding. Now she’s also the author of STICKING TO MY STORY: The Alchemy Of Storytelling For Startups, which is already a bestseller.


I listened to A LOT of people who talk about storytelling, and sometimes doing that research is less than amazing, so it was with some trepidation that I started listening to a podcast Donna was on, But she was so you good right off the bat I actually gave her the greatest compliment a podcast listener can give: I went into my settings and started listening to her at normal speed.


It didn’t hurt at all that Donna’s someone who actually tells stories, quotes George Constanza from Seinfeld and says really unique stuff like “I always try to eat my own dog food”, so I know you’re all in for a treat.


Ladies and gentlemen, Donna Griffit.


Donna, welcome to the show!


Donna Griffit  1:17

Well, I do have to say I prefer I prefer to say I like to drink my own champagne or my own kava, since we're in Spain today. It sounds a little more elegance in the dog food, but thank you normal speed. That's like a record. Wow.


Francisco Mahfuz  1:31

It's it's not an honour that I bestow upon many of the people that


Donna Griffit  1:38

you have made my day. And today is actually my live book launch event. And I'm already almost as excited I was on my wedding day. So you've just brought it up a few levels. Fransisco so thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz  1:49

I'm not sure your husband should know that the book launch is as exciting.


Donna Griffit  1:56

He gets it, he gets it. Believe me. He's more excited for me today than he wasn't our wedding day. And actually, it was it's pouring rain outside. But but it's the first day of spring and 12 years ago today was our first date. Oh, nice. Yeah, so he's not particularly sentimental, but hey, he let me sleep in today made the girls breakfast, got them off to school. You know, there's no much more romantic than that. Honestly, after, after 12 years together,


Francisco Mahfuz  2:20

I can maybe think of some things that are slightly more romantic. But you know,


Donna Griffit  2:29

what really, it is, though, is understanding the needs of the people that we love. And that by the way, just segwaying into storytelling is exactly that because you tell stories based on your your audience's needs and wants and desires and, and what's missing in their life. And that's the magic that happens. I didn't intend to do that. But it just kind of happened.


Francisco Mahfuz  2:51

Okay, so since we're into the storytelling already, the first thing I wanted to ask you, because of the type of storytelling that you help people do is, is this thing that can come across as perhaps a bit of a silly question, but but I think actually bear with me, I think there's interesting layers to peel from it, which is, when it comes to startups and pitching for funding. When we look at something we watch something like Shark Tank, right? Or the UK version of that, which is Dragon's Den, how does the in your experience, how does that compare to the real world of pitching? Like, where is that at? All right, where is it completely not the way it normally is in where maybe it should be more like that?


Donna Griffit  3:35

Well, first of all, I adore Shark Tank. Our Saturday morning ritual is to have breakfast and watch Shark Tank with our girls returned to create little entrepreneurs. They're almost 10 and almost seven and, and you know, we'll stop and we'll explain what evaluation means and what your customer acquisition costs me to. It's really getting them into that conversation. Sorry,


Francisco Mahfuz  3:56

sorry, sorry. Sorry. You're explaining to your seven year old, but customer acquisition valuing this because


Donna Griffit  4:06

they'll say these terms, and they'll be like, what does that mean? And we'll stop it, we'll explain it to them. And that's, by the way, one of the best storytelling exercises you can ever have is trying to explain a complex concept to a seven year old or a 10 year old. It's like if you can do that you can explain it to anyone because you can't dumb it down. They're very smart. And they don't take bullshit excuse me


Francisco Mahfuz  4:28

as much as you want.


Donna Griffit  4:33

But it because the if they get it and like you see the little light go on in their eyes, you know, you've hit it in a way that you've been clear. So I love Shark Tank. I love what it does for inspiring entrepreneurship. And what I love most are the personal stories that people tell, you know, where they came up with the motivation and the idea because to me that is pure storytelling, where it's not exactly closest You don't walk into an investor meeting and come out with an investment. I mean, come on, let's get real here. It's it even there, they go into six months of due diligence, not all deals close. But I think what it's done to inspire people, and I personally think it's the best reality show on because it's extremely educational. And you see young people there, and you see people that have made it out of nothing. So we have to keep in it, you know, there's reality check, and they're not really going to just throw money at you. But telling compelling stories is what I think we can take from their most in a short, snappy period of time.


Francisco Mahfuz  5:38

Yeah, because that's, that is the part of the where Shark Tank might or might not differ from, from what a good startup pitch should be, which is that, I think, because of that format, the, you know, they're very short pitches, right? Is it three minutes, thing on Shark Tank?


Donna Griffit  5:54

Two, three.


Francisco Mahfuz  5:55

So I know that that's not necessarily the the environment that a startup founder or hopeful startup founder is going to encounter. But sometimes it is on pitch competitions and a whole lot of other events, they do only get three minutes or five minutes. So what I wanted more of a technical take from you is, if you only have three minutes, right, let's say five minutes, how much of that should be focused on the story? Because I think on Shark Tank, there is a temptation for that to be more of the story than anything else, because it will make for better watching. But is that what a founder should do if they only have that little time?


Donna Griffit  6:36

And my answer is absolutely. It's funny. One of the companies that I write about in my book, they're called cure life. And they're an amazing company that's found, you can't see a cure, because FDA doesn't allow it. But something that brings blood sugar levels down for diabetic patients, and gives them back control over their lives. And it was inspired by the founder whose father was diagnosed with diabetes in his 50s, out of the blue, and his life completely got turned around. So oftentimes, my clients will come back to me for later rounds, or as they grow for sales decks. And he asked me to work with his VP sales and his director of US sales a couple of weeks ago. And they sent me the deck and I'm like, Wait, where's Ron's story with his dad? And they said, Oh, you know, we're talking to companies like Whole Foods, we have only a few minutes with them. So we can't waste it on the story. So what were they giving them lists of ingredients and and supply chain? And I said, Guys, you have such a beautiful, unique story, what do you think they're gonna remember from these few minutes they have with you. And then it turns out that both the Director of Sales and the VP sales both had fathers that were diagnosed with diabetes, with diabetes in the middle of their life, and I'm like, You guys are the company that is on a passionate mission, to help people with diabetes live their best lives, that's what they're going to remember, they're not going to remember how much what herbs in it that it's all natural, they're not going to remember that they hear that all the time, they're going to remember that stories stick. And that's, you know why I called the boat sticking to my story. But it's, that's amazing. Totally be with that. So if you only have a two minute pitch, or a five minute pitch, like a demo day for an accelerator or competition, there's usually they're gonna have requirements of what you have to hit on. So I would say at least 2030 seconds is devoted to the story to the problem, then a simple solution statement, showing how it works if you can, if you have the time to show some kind of demo, because people are very visual, and they need it. And then some fascinating bits about your market, your achievements, the business, and then boom, that's it. There'll be q&a Later, a short pitch, a quick pitch, as I call it, it's an opportunity to make them want to hear more, okay, you're not going to answer it all in five minutes. And the biggest mistake people make is not only have a few minutes, I should talk as much about the business as possible. But then you're just talking to this, you're missing the heart and the gut, and you want to talk to all three. And that's what storytelling helps you do?


Francisco Mahfuz  9:15

Yeah, because the challenge of that type of setup is, particularly for startups, is there's a requirement for for some business information, you know, you can't, as compelling as the story might be, even with just five minutes, or even three minutes, you can get away with telling the most compelling story in the world for two and a half minutes, and then kind of trying somehow to try to turn that into a business. But on the other hand, maybe 30 seconds is very short. I mean, you can give an idea of what the story is, but even that, I think I remember that sorry, from the book, perhaps because I read the book from yesterday to today. But I think it's very different. You can hint of what the story is, you can probably tell this is gonna sound funny, but you can tell what the story is. But you can show it. There's not much showing you can do with you only got 30 seconds, if


Donna Griffit  10:12

we shaved down around story and we said something like, you know, I went when my father was in his 50s, he was diagnosed with diabetes. And in a matter of days, he went from a vibrant, lively man to someone who needed a nap for an hour a day. And to me, it was devastating. And I set out on a quest to find a cure. And I found all kinds of Ayurvedic and things that helped. And his levels of blood sugar were skyrocketing, in spite of Western medicine. And then I did some research, and then you move into the business and you say $1.1 billion annually is spent on treating diabetes in the US. 486 million people are diagnosed each year, it's the biggest epidemic second only to AIDS of white people where people die of and it's a gateway. So we've transitioned from the our story into the business story seamlessly. And then we say, and I wanted to bring this cure to my father, but to all people in the world. And that's why I created thrillin. So it's a nice little trick and a nice little transition, because you're playing off your own story into the big market story.


Francisco Mahfuz  11:22

That was 28 seconds, by the way,


Donna Griffit  11:23

there you go. See, we did it. So it's totally doable. It's just about shaving it down. And when it's your own story, objectively, it's really hard to do, because you've got it's like I, when, when my oldest was born, and people would be like, Oh, show me a picture of the baby, I'd show like picture after picture after picture after picture after picture. And then after a while you realise you've lost your audience. So it's just as effective to show three gorgeous pictures and then move on and you get the same like, oh, and then as you know, so so it's the same thing with your business, you could tell your story in a very compact, powerful way, and then move on to the business. And you've created the same effect. Maybe even better.


Francisco Mahfuz  12:04

I related a lot to that example you gave on the book when you're comparing it to showing baby pictures. Because I have done this thing that sounds kind of really, I'm so cynical is the word but very calculated, which is I'm going to see people in I know they will ask about my children. And I know what would like to show them a picture of my kids bigger, particularly now because they're very young and still changing a lot. So I will before I go into wherever I'm going, I'll go through my pictures, and I will find the picture of my kid. And I will just leave it on that one. So as soon as I go into the Photos app on the phone, it's already there. And I have to go, oh, yeah, she's gorgeous. And then you get your phone on and started scrolling. And they're like, Oh my God, they're gonna try and find pictures. But if you can just open the phone and go like this, they will look right. But if you're scrolling for the pictures,


Donna Griffit  13:01

example of being prepped, and that's what you should be doing. If you're presenting at a conference and say there's a lot of conferences now right now in San Francisco, there's the GDC, which is the gaming conference. So I would suggest to people have your demo, or a screenshot or something cool. Have your product prepped on your phone. So as you're mingling and somebody's like, Oh, tell me about your company. Boom, you pull it out. Perfect example Fransisco because that's exactly we want to be ready to pitch in a pinch at any time to whomever standing in line for coffee on an aeroplane at the gym pretty awkward if you're changing and somebody's you know, you're pitching their


Francisco Mahfuz  13:41

best best time to pitch anybody is when they're changing. I mean, they get really run away from you can be dripping, dripping on their underwear trying to get away from your body. That sounds like that. Really? Yeah, can you pitch in a pinch? Sounds like the title of some lead magnet. Okay, so there's a line. There's a line you've used in the book, and I will give you a softball here to explain further which is the villain is the hero of your story.


Donna Griffit  14:15

And he is I mean, think about the great villains, they will think about the great action adventure movies. I don't know what the last great one you've seen is, but until the villain makes their entrance, it's just you know, it looks like a drama or a rom com or anything the minute the villain is there or a villainous act. It all comes into play because the heroes are like, think of it as like the moon the moon only shines because the sun is reflecting on it. So if we think of that the hero as the moon and the villain as the son, which is kind of not the way we look at it, then then then that really says a lot because we want a villain villain that even when their sons is set in there Not there. They are still looming large. First time I've ever thought of it that way. But yeah, absolutely. So you need to create a larger than like villain a pain, a need and opportunity that your audience has that you have set out to solve, like curing diabetes or like stopping cyber attacks or whatever it might be that your business is focusing on.


Francisco Mahfuz  15:23

The same section of the book is said, if you have a story that inspired you, that should be your villain story. But I read that and I immediately thought, well, if you don't have a story that inspired you, should you even bother with this? I mean, I'm sure there is there something inspired them, they might not have realised that it's a story or turned into a story. But like, if you don't know what the story that inspires you is, what are you doing?


Donna Griffit  15:50

You kind of said, no, what inspired you to start your company because setting out on an entrepreneurial journey, you've got to either be absolutely crazy or absolutely inspired, or a little bit of both, and I'm married to one of those. So you have to sometimes find the story now doesn't mean go out and shoot your uncle or you know, anything like that, let's let's let's not, you don't have to hurt someone in order to have an inspiring story. And you don't have to have a relative that suffering. There's many ways we can find the inspiration, it could be something happening in the world, it could be something that happened when you worked at your previous job. And you saw there was a big problem and you experienced it firsthand. It could be a client of yours. It could be something that could be a big number. It could be like you know what the spin, if we didn't have around story that we could start off in saying $1.1 billion spent each year on treating diabetes, and still 496 million people are being diagnosed and this is set to grow. That's a story because numbers can become stories in numbers are also memorable. And for investors numbers attached to dollars, or euro or pounds is a love language. So we want to show something that's larger than life that needs to be solved. The sometimes with founders, I'll find stories that that inspire them. I'll you know, just out of nowhere. We'll just be looking and find it.


Francisco Mahfuz  17:14

Yeah. So you. You said something I wanted to pick up on, you said you don't need to shoot your uncle to get an inspiring story. And I started thinking, I mean, I think wanting to shoot your ankle is a very relatable story not actually doing the shooting. But like, I think if you started with a pager saying, Have you ever been to Thanksgiving dinner? And you really, really would like to shoot one of your uncle's?


Donna Griffit  17:46

It's usually probably an answer. It's going to be an aunt that


Francisco Mahfuz  17:50

maybe it's bad end that you only see for Thanksgiving. Like I the DOMA projects would solve that issue. But it's very relatable story.


Donna Griffit  17:59

Absolutely. i Yeah, definitely. I as I told you before the show, we're about to go have a big family reunion in Spain. And there's going to be 12 So a 10 adults and three kids, one of them's a baby. So we're like plotting on lots of SendGrid to keep us is


Francisco Mahfuz  18:19

that the baby? Is it one of the adults or?


Donna Griffit  18:23

Well, there is an adult that is definitely a baby. We will not say whom. But there are few of them probably. But we'll see. Hopefully, it'll all be good. And the beauty of Spain will will keep us nice and calm. Serenity now.


Francisco Mahfuz  18:41

Yes, I watch. I'm rewatching the whole of Seinfeld, and my wife is watching it for the first time in last week. Last week we watched the serenity now insanity later episode.


Donna Griffit  18:53

We were just talking yesterday. Speaking of storytelling, it's such a storytelling of the time it within. I'm wondering how like today's generation is responding to it because it's so misogynistic. And it's so like no holds barred, and it makes fun of everyone. And I'm thinking boy, the woke are probably not liking very much. I loved it. So


Francisco Mahfuz  19:15

I think it's an interesting thing you say there because I'm watching it with my wife. And I'm not finding that is so misogynistic as it is. And I'm forgetting the actual word. No, he just hates everybody. So like when you hate people, I forgot what's the word misanthropic misanthropic Yes, because because if you compare that to friends, which is another thing that was massive in my in my generation, friends doesn't really hold up. Well, there's a lot of jokes. Say for example, about the whole you know, Ross having a wife that was a lesbian, but then you watch Seinfeld and even in the episodes where there's an episode where someone is convinced that George and Jerry are a couple in everything. Aren't they saved? Like, did you think Well, again, not that there's anything wrong with that?


Donna Griffit  20:06

It even even then there was like this kind of, I mean, but Kramer showing up to Thanksgiving dinner after roasting in the sun and looking like he's wearing blackface. I think these things did. I live in Northern California, which is about as woke as you can possibly get any more awake, and we just like Sleep No More. So so I'm really curious, it'll have to ask like my younger cousins, who are always my touch points for the world of the millennials and the Gen Zers. What they think so I feel, I feel like the generation gap is so huge between Gen X and Gen Z. And just pulling back to storytelling for a second, you have to be able to tell a story that appeals to the generation you're talking to.


Francisco Mahfuz  20:49

Yeah, I think when I watch it, I'm always, I'm always because I love it so much that I would hate to feel that it just doesn't stack up at all, like, you know, one, one comedy that I used to love. And I tried watching it again, maybe five, six years ago, and just you just can't watch it is Eddie Murphy is raw, like half of the time he's just super uncomfortable. Like, this was funny back then it's not fun anymore. It was however, it does look to me. I mean, the race thing might be by beware they let themselves down, because it's just not a major factor of it at all. And that alone in itself is a problem. But it feels like they're very aware of when they're saying offensive stuff because they defend themselves or one of the categories like there's nothing wrong with that. There's that's fine. It's like you can you know, but it's really weird, but we can do. But But anyway. Yeah, sorry. I need to now insanity later. Right? So we were talking about the villain being the problem of the story and how that should be, in a way the hero of any story. Now, when it comes to the why of your story of why you're doing it? How much do you feel that that needs to be personal? Because you know, the example you gave from Korea wife, it's very personal. It's your father, your father in law, that's that's gotten sick. Now, is it as powerful is if you were doing your normal job and encountered clients that have this problem, do you find it as as powerful or if it's personal, it's about it. It's just different.


Donna Griffit  22:15

And if you have a powerful story, and usually the powerful stories are there, when we're talking about life sciences, or pharma, or biomed, there is like a very richness of story and emotion there, which is really nice. But for example, I worked with a company that was doing DevOps, the first company I ever worked with doing DevOps before J frog, which is one of my early clients, I just went to visit them the other day, they they've gone public, and I helped them on their first like $4 million pitch deck, nobody knew what the heck they were doing. So there are so many stories there that we tried to tell, but as simple as possible to tell something complex. And I love this and show me the CEO once and not this visit another visit. He said to me, because they're not calling it like liquid software. So think about it on your phone, you have a million apps, let's say your Gmail or your Facebook or something that you use, often, it probably updates 50 times more a day. But you don't know that right? And that's exactly why J frog is there, it creates this liquid stream where updates don't disturb the end user process. That's it as simple as that. And then when you think of the pain behind it, or you can say how frustrating is it when you try to get onto a website or try to get onto an app and it's down, you want to kill someone you want to throw your phone, we have zero tolerance for waiting anymore. There you go. So that kind of pain and frustration immediate can't compare somebody coming in, you're being diagnosed with diabetes to somebody waiting for their app to RE app. But it's that same human frustration in that same thing that is a huge business pain. It's not just a personal end thing. If a business can't access their app, they could be losing millions a minute. So these pains can be just as acute.


Francisco Mahfuz  24:10

Okay, fair enough. The other question I had was very similar to some of the stuff we were talking about just now is when do you find is there a particular part of the pitch or type of pitch where a what we normally consider a founder story would be more or less effective than, say, a user story? Are you equally happy to have a user story starting a page, or you always prefer that to be the founder story and then the user story can come in later.


Donna Griffit  24:41

I love the user story. I call it the the deconstructed user story if you can use it. So start off with a client of yours now and this is something I always have to remind my clients when we're talking about the problem, you don't exist. Your solution doesn't exist. It's a vortex. It's a void void that has to be filled in in a little while we're going to come show how you fill it. But they always want to jump and this is what we're doing. I'm like, but you're not there yet you don't exist. You weren't there for the miserable existence of their life before they found you and everything that was going wrong and the solutions that they tried that didn't work. And then again, you can make the transition. And it's this way for over 57% of the industry who don't have a way to solve this. So you're telling a user story, which is great, because it ups your validity and your veracity for investors, because there's someone that you really understand, it's a much bigger market, then you come in and you talk about your solution. And then Okay, let's go back to Company X, and see how their life has transformed through working with us. And then you talk about the onboarding. And some of the features, again, don't show too many pictures of the baby, just a couple exciting features, wow features, and then the results, the outcome, and a loving testimonial where they're like, I cannot imagine my life without them. I'm never leaving them, please don't leave me. And you show the stickiness and, and the retention levels,


Francisco Mahfuz  26:07

I have something that might be a slight digression, but it's not. But when you were talking about how they want to talk about the solution, they really want to jump in and talk about the solution. I remember this ad, which I understand to be a somewhat controversial one, which is, I think, was called like, it's not about the NAO, I don't know if you're familiar with this thing, right? So you can watch this after we're done. And you're going to have strong opinions about it. But essentially, it's, it's about how I think men keep trying to fix everything at all times. So it's this woman and she has a nail sticking out of her forehand. And she's like, I My head hurts a lot. And it's really bothering me. And the guys, they're like, there's like a nail on your forehead. It's just like, it's not about the NAO, like, I just want to tell you that it's you know, upset or it's hurting, and the guy keeps trying to just like, get me just talk about this nature. It's not about the nail. And I know, I know,


Donna Griffit  27:01

was it an advertisement for my God?


Francisco Mahfuz  27:06

I have friends who who watch that even like, That's exactly my life. That's every relationship I've ever had. And I had friends in Washington, it's like, that's pretty offensive like this is this is not a look for this woman.


Donna Griffit  27:19

Sometimes we just want to be saying, Oh, honey, I understand you're in pain. That's it, that


Francisco Mahfuz  27:25

sort of thing. You're the founder just trying to get it. Can we just can I just talk about my solution? I just want to talk about my solution. Can I talk about No, no, it's let's just talk about the problem.


Donna Griffit  27:33

It's not about you. It's not about the nail. Absolutely. Yeah. And then that's very apropos. Because, you know, falling into the trap of a corny kind of car salesmen have the worst stereotype of the salesperson or like a cute Home Shopping Network, where they're constantly pushing how great the solution is, and how amazing the solution is, and why don't you get that this is the best thing ever. But again, think about the moon, the moon is not going to shine unless there's the sun shining on it. So you need to make sure that sun is shining bright, you need to make sure that your villain the pain is felt so that we really want that solution. Something


Francisco Mahfuz  28:10

else that I thought was interesting was you said, and I quote, investors need to believe they're contributing towards a significant chance in the market of a bet of bettering people's lives. I don't quote I copied something wrong. So this was this was what Silicon Valley calls the North Star. So I read that in in particular, the part about, you know, they care about making significant change in people's lives. And my first instinct was saying, really, so the question is, you know, I don't know, I'm not doubting that these people have good intentions, and they're not just trying to line their pockets. But is there a risk of someone always tried to make this about making the world a better place, or I have a friend who works in the tech industry a lot. And he and he says that when he asks it, he talks to founders, about CEOs about what their mission is. And he says, and you can say, save the world, or anything like save the world in your mission.


Donna Griffit  29:11

North Star is not North Star is not about making the world a better place. That's an answer reserved for a beauty pageant, if those still exist. So North Star is showing how big this could potentially get. Because investors want to look at something and be like, okay, so they're doing something now that's pretty darn impressive, but Oh, baby, they're gonna go far. And that's actually and I was just, I was writing my speech for my launch tonight. And I couldn't help but thinking about three really great storytellers of our past several years, Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neumann and Samuel big been free. And they were really great storytellers. They managed to raise a lot of money. Now, I'm not going to put Adam Neumann on the same scale as the other two because I we work really was amazing for the run of it. And it really did transform a market. The other two did some very malicious things. But I honestly don't think they started out. They truly, I think, believe their story and believe that they could make this seismic shift in their markets somewhere along the way, it shifted from a story to a bald faced lie. And that is unacceptable in any way, shape, or form. But they told great stories, and they sweat, so many investors bought two of them. I mean, these are very, very smart people. There's a reason they were swept in. And it was the getting caught up in the big, incredible vision that any of the three could bring. So your Northstar is bigger than what you are now it's not saving the world, but it's going to other markets, creating bigger products being the go to solution for what you know, whatever it is it you're solving.


Francisco Mahfuz  30:55

Elizabeth Holmes has a very interesting contrast, perhaps, to some of the some of the things that you talk about in the book, which are, you know, the best practices for, for a lot of fundraising because, and again, I'm basing my my understanding of her situation here from having listened to a couple of different podcasts series about what she what she did. But a lot of the stuff you talk about that companies should do, I think that particular in the beginning, there was no way she could do that. And even I think she could make up a lot of stuff. And she did at some point. But essentially, in the beginning, she could only talk about the vision. And then a little while later, she could talk about I think it was Walgreens was their big partnership. And perhaps the only one. And apart from that there was that you know BS about the Pentagon or whatever the army was doing. But they didn't have a lot of the numbers that you would want a startup founder using when they're pitching, reduce the vision question, which is, if the vision is big enough and compelling enough, can a founder get away with very little of the of the other concrete things that they're expected to be showing, because that kind of sounds like what she did, to some extent, unless I'm missing something.


Donna Griffit  32:15

So I think probably probably in earlier stages, when it's still, you know, something that has to pass FDA or something that has to pass regulations. Everybody knows they're in it for the long haul. So you can only get so far with a vision story. So usually, your earlier seed, even maybe a pre eight will lean a lot on that big vision story. But then you gotta show the results. And one thing I never want anyone storytelling about is their numbers. Okay? Don't try to make your numbers look beautiful, you can highlight the numbers that are real, that are the most compelling numbers. Do not take vanity metrics. Do not lie about them, because you will always be found out at some point. Sooner or later I now I'm sure there's a lot of people listening to this or not listening to this, and that did get away with it. But there's only so long you can and once you've killed your credibility, that's it, you're done, even though Adam Neumann is out raising for another big thing, but I don't think Elizabeth Holmes or SBF has been are going to be out anytime soon raising funding, they'll probably get paid to do some speaking engagements. Now, Elizabeth Holmes, the big difference is lives were at risk. And to me, it's such a disappointment as a woman, entrepreneur, that you know, finally we have this potential for this incredible role model. And once again, as if we needed any more setbacks for women raising funding, now they have an excuse, oh, wells, but homes and for for Life Science. Anytime I work with a company that has anything to do with blood, and testing, we've got to find a way to say this is not telling us so this is the real terrenos. So don't ever storytel About your numbers, or about like your scientific testing that don't do that period.


Francisco Mahfuz  34:11

So what you're saying is, if I want to say that I've been married for 13 years, which is a fact I can I perhaps shouldn't say I've been happily married for 13 years, because that's where we can come. Definitely gonna come back to bite me.


Donna Griffit  34:31

I hope I hope that you're I'm she's probably in the next room. So we're gonna say that, but it's


Francisco Mahfuz  34:35

not just we've been happily married for 13 years. never regretted it for a moment.


Donna Griffit  34:44

have our moments but yeah, if you stuck it out 13 years. That's pretty commendable. So


Francisco Mahfuz  34:51

yes. Moving on, swiftly. You mentioned vision story before and as I was reading, I think I was reading the part of the book where you talk about how I think it was about rejection emails and how a lot of a lot of founders that hated massive, had had a lot of rejection. And I had a lot of fun reading that. I think one of the companies, the one of the venture capitals, has a anti achievement.


Donna Griffit  35:19

Anti polio Bessemer, the anti Andover voter.


Francisco Mahfuz  35:23

Yeah, amazing. And they were talking about all the all the stuff they didn't invest in, even though they have a chance to. But then I was thinking about, about those rejection emails, because the example in the book is from Airbnb. There's, there's a number of them in there. And then I was just thinking, is it just too harsh to say that perhaps Airbnb could have done with a better vision story?


Donna Griffit  35:45

Oh, absolutely. I mean, okay, I've seen their early pitch decks. And I don't think they even realised how far they would go because when they started out, it's called Air b&b, because of the air mattress. They basically were sending their customers air mattresses and cereal boxes Obama owes to have a little Brett Bed and Breakfast, like literally, because they their pain was they couldn't find inexpensive housing for a conference they wanted to attend, because they were broke at the time. And then they you know, you sleep on a friend's floor on an air mattress. And I don't think they ever I mean, maybe they did. And maybe they'll say today, they did realise how huge this capacity we're staying in an Airbnb, in Spain. That's absolutely beautiful. It's like, I don't think we ever would have found anything this incredible as a hotel. And, and it completely has changed the way we travel. It's completely transformed the market. So if they knew that vision that they are going to and back then their vision was travel like a local, which is very true. But it's like it's transforming. It's making the world a better place transforming the way we travel. And I love the travel like a local, it just may be going bigger vision. But but enough people got it. They're still around. They're still here. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz  37:09

I think the the Airbnb story is one that I find super interesting, because he's one of the very good examples to my mind, of how some how a founder can use more storytelling to show different parts of their business. Because obviously, you have the founder story, which was you know, Brian and Joe were broke, there was this big conference, blah, blah, nobody could find places, they had the idea for Airbnb, they got their mattresses in their own house. And I think three people stayed with them for 70 bucks apiece or something. And then those fine, they started maxing out their credit cards got some money, the company moved a little. And then they ran out of cash. And that's when they came up with the Obama O's. And Captain Captain McCain kept McCain and other nodes, which are amazing. I've never seen the cereal boxes, they look incredible, great illustrations. So you know, that was like a super creative thing they did to keep the company going. And then the last bit is one that I think you talk about a lot in the book with when it comes to research and talking to your customers. Because they they ran out of money again, and they still couldn't figure it out how why it wasn't working. And then they went in and visited a lot of their hosts. And that's when they stumbled upon the insights that the homes or the houses were a lot nicer than the pictures. And then they got professional photographic equipment themselves took a whole bunch of pictures. And that's when it started taking off. And I liked that story. Because it's just a to me, it's just a great way of saying like, you can tell the story of all these things you've done up until now. And that answers a whole bunch of questions in a way that perhaps the numbers wouldn't really, because if you say we just we took different commercial alternative commercial endeavours and raised another, I think they raised like $30,000 with a cereal, right, which is nowhere near as impressive as we made 30 grand selling cereal


Donna Griffit  39:06

if they ended up taking off as a cereal. Yeah. But I actually did have a client recently called the real cereal company. So there's people innovating and zero but I mean, I think that their journey was absolutely spectacular. And such an inspiration to young founders. And Brian writes at the end of that blog that I read, you know, next time you're told no, just remember, and it's very easy to get caught up in the negative and in the nose. And when I was acting in New York, and I was auditioning for a lot of parts, and this was while I was getting my masters. I kept saying you know you so many rejections I kept having to say to myself, Okay, it's not that I'm not a good actress. I am not the right one for the part whoever they had in mind and it's the same thing with invest As they think in patterns, they have a very clear way that they evaluate, which is why I really try to keep the structure of the storytelling very, very clear, because I want to fit you right into the structure doesn't mean you're going to be a cookie cutter company, it just means they can analyse you in the way that they need to. But you're gonna hear a lot of knows, and it doesn't mean that what you're doing isn't great, it means it's not great for them, they don't see it. They had a meeting with their board last week telling them don't invest in travel, whatever. And 1,000,001 reasons. And again, you have the power to storytel yourself and say, Okay, so this wasn't the right fit, because, and somewhere along the line, you might be saying, thankfully, I didn't end up having them invest in me, because they're not very nice people, like you never know what it was, like SVB. Right now, the whole thing. My husband has an NFT in smart contract company, and it's very high, highly regulated place. So he tried to open an account with Silicon Valley Bank. And it took a really long time to get approved because of the regulations and had been crypto and, and he had already open with an online bank. By the time they gave him approval. And we're like, oh, my gosh, thank you for that. Yes. So again, you never know what you're saved from and what how the pieces come together. But you don't want to get so hard on yourself that you you stop your journey, when you're this close, there


Francisco Mahfuz  41:29

is a line, I can't remember exactly if I've kind of made this up, or if I adopted or copied from someone else. But it was I think it was, if you don't like the way the story ended, then realise that you can just make it the end of a chapter and not the end of a story. Yeah,


Donna Griffit  41:49

nine or rewrite the end. Absolutely. And again, people might say that that's kind of living in your own little version of reality. But here we are March 2023, three years ago, we were all sitting in lockdown with our kids at home and trying to survive not understanding what the heck was going on around us. And I made a very clear choice then that the story I was going to tell was of hope, and not of like, oh my gosh, we're all going to be in lockdown from Now had I known that my kids would be home for as long as they were I probably would have, you know, either. But each day, it was like I was very mindful about what I chose to consume in terms of content, and what I chose to share. And, and I get sent, you know, you get the memories back on Facebook. And I'm really happy that those were the things that are coming back to me now like the humorous things and the music, and all of those. And I'm just like, so grateful to be out of that. But I don't think I would have survived that if I hadn't steered the story to the place that everything's going to be okay. The business is going to be okay, our health is going to be okay. And we're going to come out stronger for this. And now we have plenty of toilet paper and everything's okay. But the world has changed. And I think it's really made us more resilient in a lot of ways to change. I've never done well with ambiguity I used to be, you know, I'd audition for a part I count myself out before I passed this was posted in college, I'd like camp out when they were supposed to there were posting that once upon a time you couldn't check it on an app. But the grades list, I never was good at waiting for things. And I think this has kind of stretched the muscle in the sense of see always I'm an optimist, I look for the good in a situation I have to I have no other choice. That's just who I am. There's


Francisco Mahfuz  43:39

something to be said about our ability to to change the meaning or to some extent choose the meaning of whatever happens in our life. And I agree that there is an easy criticism of that of you know, you're living in your own reality or bubble, whatever. But but it's also true. And I have this with fairly firm scientific backing for people that have been on the show that our brains work in story form. So something happens or somebody tells you something, there's going to be a story in your mind, because that's how we make sense of things. You know, this happened and because of this, this happened, and this are the consequences. So there is going to be a story there no matter what. And I think it might be perhaps arrogant, if not completely misguided to think that there is only one interpretation of those things. I remember when I when I started speaking, and I was talking to people that were more or less in that world and I would say I know it's really hard and you know, I've had some good gigs but it's taking a while to sort of get some traction. And they're like, how long have you been doing this for and I'm like six months? I was like when I had been doing this for six months. I was speaking churches for free, right you've got paid gigs Shut up. Right before I've been doing this for you know, three years or four years. You can genuinely expect that it's going to look remotely like like a real business. I mean, some people we might but but you're being silly. And I go, Oh, okay, that's interesting to know. And I think that applies for many things. Now, maybe, maybe you're amazing actress and you will begin to lucky, maybe that wasn't exactly what was happening. But even if you sucked, even if you're sucked in, eventually you got better and then got the part, or you suck for a very long time to the point that you gave up and did something else. And this is now the thing you're doing. And hopefully, that thing is now going well, then that's the story, right? We all are


Donna Griffit  45:38

our own best storytellers. And it's a gift to be able to do it, and anyone can do it. And again, we don't want to lie. It's not that we're, you know, your, your bank account is not going to lie about your situation, you can't just go off spending, like there was no tomorrow, because you've told me that you gonna stop at some point. But any way we look at the reality, so I'm looking out my window now. It's pouring rain, I have a book launch event, I have a lemon tree here with beautiful lemons popping up. And I have a plum tree next to it, which has got just the last few pink blossoms on it. And mostly with leaves. And I'm thinking I could be I could be like, beating myself with it, like guar isn't ready to go or Brooklyn, they're everywhere gonna grab it. And I could just be thinking, how Blessed are we to live in a beautiful place like California, and we're getting enough rain. And these fruit, there'll be plums there in the summer. And, you know, this is it, I have a house and I have this, like, it's all a question of perspective of how you do it. And people have met me at different junctures in my life and been like, this chick for real, like, this is just, this is who I am, even before I was a storyteller, I always was like, looking at that positive thing. But I'm like, I'm allergic to toxicity and negativity. And I choose not to make that part of my daily diet and people that are like that, I just don't want to be around too much. It's not good for you. Just like eating too much junk food is not good for you. It's good, you know, so I think storytelling is the most powerful tool that we have in our personal and in our business life, if we use it in the right way, just like anything else.


Francisco Mahfuz  47:18

Now, I have to very strongly resist the urge to start adding some of my usual nonsense to all the lovely things you say. So, I will resist it. And I would like that the beautiful imagery and the plug trees and other inspirational stuff is said we the final note here, although you know, the each is always there such a nonsensical angle to the other things you said. Okay, so, my


Donna Griffit  47:48

husband is the same. He will always try to throw in there, but you know, he still makes me laugh after 12 years. So yes,


Francisco Mahfuz  47:55

yes. I yeah, I, as much as I might overestimate how, how fantastically charming and attractive I might be. I realised that the sense of humour is the glue keeping my marriage together. If that goes, I don't think this is doing it like this face is not holding, relationship together.


Donna Griffit  48:20

Listen, humour, and is is such an important clue. It truly is. And I think, you know, we could have laughed our way through the pandemic, and ups and downs in the financial markets. And who even knows now, are we looking at a 2008 being able to like, you know, choose to bond together through laughter and making fun of each other. Whenever that's a gift. My oldest,


Francisco Mahfuz  48:47

maybe when she was four or five, once looked at me very seriously and said, Daddy, you are funnier than a snake. And I am still. I'm still I have to figure out what that meant. But I liked the paradox of that.


Donna Griffit  49:10

Funny, or she knows she likes podcasts like I can't get is there sarcasm? Four or five? Not really, I


Francisco Mahfuz  49:15

think I think that I can interpret that line to mean a lot of things. And I'm sure my wife can interpret that line to mean a lot of things. But the reality of it is fairly straightforward. We have gone to to an animal farm, and they had lots of snakes in she didn't tell us when we were surrounded by snakes, but apparently does snakes are funny, but I am funnier.


Donna Griffit  49:42

And sometimes it's the interpretation that we would give it like oh my gosh, is she saying I'm like a snake? Oh my gosh, my daughter does. Again, you take it to a good way. And that's this was the choices we make. Do we get offended? Do we go hard on ourselves? Do we give up our dreams because someone else said it I there was a startup that I was in a session with investors and they were doing pitches. And one of the investors who was very biting basically said, you can pack up your bags and leave now. And this startup has gone on to do extremely well. Now, if he had that, that moment, listen to that, taking that in and gone and beat into the who knows. So a, I do advise investors to be, you know, little gentle, like, we don't always have to be as direct, you can give feedback that builds, it doesn't always have to be destructive. But we really also, it's a question of, you know, looking at the world, letting yourself be in that low place, and then okay, what do I go? Where do I go from here? How do I create a new story? How do I reinvent the story? How do I make my story relevant for these times, which is really, really important, too.


Francisco Mahfuz  50:45

Yes. And I think also having the realisation that when it comes to marketing, we always say that can't be for everyone, like you can try to sell to everyone, you can try to attract every every single kind of client, that just doesn't work. I think similarly, I'm not sure if it's a perfect parallel, but I think anyone trying to promote the startup should realise that you're not going to be for everyone. And that doesn't just mean clients. It also means investors, some people might love the type of thing you're trying to do and the type of person you are, some people just won't. So you know, it would be silly to expect,


Donna Griffit  51:23

I always say I'd rather I'd rather be someone shot of whiskey than everyone's cup of tea. You're not getting out. Granted with investors, you have to show that a lot of people are gonna want your brand of whiskey, you have to be able to show that prove that they're gonna make money. They're not just in it for shits and giggles. But but at the same time. Yes, exactly. You're not going to be everyone's perfect vision of the role they want to cast and that's just it. You just have to keep going and believing and reinventing and making your story strong, keeping yourself strong, keeping yourself healthy and keep going.


Francisco Mahfuz  51:57

Perfect. Now you have a a book launch to prepare for I have screaming children to pacify ready.


Donna Griffit  52:05

It's really pretty quietly over there and that you have tied up. They've


Francisco Mahfuz  52:09

been they've been locked in the closet through this time. And I know that one one hour is about how much oxygen that closet to keep.


Donna Griffit  52:18

Yeah, that's very good. Yes,


Francisco Mahfuz  52:19

this is very quiet because I mute my microphone every time I'm not speaking. That's the only reason they've been very quiet. They have not been very good. Alright, so your book sticking to my story? Yes, there you go. There you go. Perfect. You're a professional, you had gotten it before it sticking to my story. This is out now everywhere, right?


Donna Griffit  52:38

It's on Amazon and other booksellers, but mainly Amazon. It's there, it still is promotional rate. And I keep getting emails of people thanking me for writing it is the best thing that ever and my lofty goal. And that makes me very happy. But my lofty goal is to get a copy of this in the hands of every single founder out there. So if you're a startup founder, if you know startup founders better gift than a bottle of wine, and it really can help I put my heart and soul into making this the go to pitch solution.


Francisco Mahfuz  53:13

Alright, it's pretty good fun. I mean, it's this is not really is not really my world I've worked with. I've worked with 1000s of Oracle intrapreneurs. But there's there's a whole dimension of that. That is, as I as I read it, it confirms to me that that's not my my usual arena, and I don't have the knowledge for it. But still, I made it through the 200 pages within within a few


Donna Griffit  53:35

hours. Well, that makes me happy to hear yay. That's wonderful.


Francisco Mahfuz  53:39

All right. And if anyone wants to check out the rest of the stuff you're doing I know you present on LinkedIn, I'll put a link to your to your profile on the show notes. And your website is Donna griffith.com Not Griffith. Not like the actor.


Donna Griffit  53:53

T one T No. H No. H Yes. And I know in Barcelona, you there's sometimes you put the H when it's not there at all right? No,


Francisco Mahfuz  54:02

they do many things. I'm not I'm not from Barcelona. I'm from Brazil. So I can this them as much as I want. But, but no, I will put I will put a link to a website in there and there is an endless amount of testimonials and a whole bunch of other fun stuff. So if anyone's to check it out, they can do that. Alright everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show. Then scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap, I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website storypowers.com



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